Over the summer, I went to a music festival on Randall Island off of Manhattan where all of the food was curated by Eater. (Yes, it was as hipster as it sounds.) There were all sorts of stands, tacos, famed Roberta’s pizza out of Brooklyn, Pasquale Jones, PDT slinging craft cocktails, and even a poke stand. Wait, raw fish salad at a music festival? The Hawaiian dish is having a moment, popping up in restaurants all across the country, and Atlanta, too, is on board with the trend.
Poke (PO-kay) has humble origins in Hawaii as a traditional dish sold at restaurants, convenience stores, and food shacks on the side of the road. The word “poke” means “to cut” in Hawaiian, and that’s exactly what the dish is—a chopped and chilled salad of diced raw tuna, salmon, or other fish dressed in sesame oil, soy sauce, sliced sweet onions or green onion, and sesame seeds.
Recently, Poke-centric restaurants have sprung up over the country selling items like poke bowls, which include toppings such as sliced ginger, edamame, sesame seeds, and, of course, poke, served over rice. Think of these bowls as deconstructed sushi. Depending on which toppings you choose, poke bowls can be very filling.
Four poke spots have opened in the metro area in the past two months (not including a pop-up called Appa’s at Irwin Street that is currently on hiatus), and the response has been enthusiastic. Each restaurant slightly differs in its approach, but all specialize in poke bowls and some sell another trendy raw fish craze: sushi burritos, which are essentially oversized maki/handroll hybrids wrapped up like a burrito.
Fish Bowl Poke
The lunch options downtown just keep getting better. This new concept from the people behind DUA Vietnamese Noodle Soup was the first of its kind in Atlanta and keeps it simple. The process is easy, just choose your base (rice, salad, or both), protein, marinade, toppings, and aioli sauce. Voila, you have a healthy lunch. 61 Broad Street NW, 404-343-2467
This new vendor in the We Suki Suki Collective in East Atlanta Village serves poke bowls and sushi burritos in varieties such as the Demogorgon, a mix of spicy tuna, lettuce, cabbage, cucumber, tempura flakes, eel sauce and spicy mayo. Like most poke bowl places, you can customize your creation to your liking. Lunchtime can get a little busy, so call ahead or plan on waiting for your dish to be made-to-order. 479 Flat Shoals Ave SE, 404-913-7667
Another brand new spot, Poké Bar opened this week in Sandy Springs. This is the first outpost outside of California for the chain, which specializes in customizable poke bowls. Rather than layering the toppings, this restaurant serves the poke in scoops so that you can taste each flavor more clearly. The chain has plans to open two more Atlanta locations. 6615 Roswell Road, Sandy Springs, 404-343-0424
Emory Point now has a spot for students to get their poke bowl or “sushiritto” (sushi burrito) fix. Boruboru has an extensive menu with base options such as salad, brown rice, or white rice for your creation. If you aren’t feeling inspired, they also have combinations such as Boruboru Style, a mix of masago, macadamia nuts, nori, avocado, pickled red onion, scallion, pickled jalapeno, crispy fried onion, and creamy style dressing. They also have paleo and gluten-free options. 1568 Avenue Place, 404-458-5518